Even the most die-hard Doctor Who fan can’t deny that the show has its fair share of inconsistencies and plot holes. For some people, this is just part of the show’s charm. After all, this is a series that never takes itself too seriously, and one that's usually making things up as it goes along. For other fans, these oversights are cause to shake a fist at the screen in fury.
In a show centered around time travel that's aired 828 episodes to date, there are bound to have been some mistakes made along the way. Some of them can be glossed over, but others are so obvious that you’d need a visit from the Silence to forget about them.
Today, we’ve rounded up the 15 Biggest Plot Holes In Doctor Who. For this list, we’ll be focusing on oversights that occur on screen in New Who, so from the 2005 reboot on. Classic Who demands its own list entirely.
Beware of SPOILERS!
15 The Doctor’s Age
Time Lords, of course, age differently than humans do. Thanks to regenerations, they can live for hundreds of years. The Doctor himself is centuries old. Past that fact, though, the series got a bit confused about how old the Doctor is.
The Seventh Doctor says that he’s 953 years old. Until Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of the Ninth Doctor, this was the last time that the Doctor’s age was mentioned on screen. But in “Aliens of London,” Nine says that he’s 900 years old. Not only would this negate the existence of Eight and the War Doctor, it removed several decades from the Doctor’s age. Even though the Time Lords age differently and travel through time, they don’t age backward (at least, as far as we know).
This was explained away in later seasons by saying that the Doctor doesn’t quite remember how old he is. However, the explanation came after fans had already pointed out the plot hole, which is why it still has a place on our list.
14 Half-Doctor Lessons
In the 2006 Christmas special, Ten loses his hand in a sword fight shortly after regenerating, so he uses excess regeneration energy to regrow his hand without changing his appearance. His severed hand is later returned to him by Jack Harkness. In “Journey’s End,” the Meta-Crisis Doctor is created when Donna accidentally touches the hand’s container, which still contains the extra energy. The Meta-Crisis Doctor is part human, part Time Lord, since he has Donna’s DNA.
After the Meta-Crisis Doctor destroys the entire New Dalek Empire, Ten realizes that he can’t be left alone. He takes the Meta-Crisis Doctor with Rose back to the parallel universe she was trapped in after “Doomsday,” telling her that the Meta-Crisis Doctor needs Rose to make him a better person. His recent Dalek genocide is evidence that he’s like the Doctor before he met Rose. When Rose protests, saying that he’s not the real Doctor, the Meta-Crisis Doc explains that he “look[s] like him, think[s] like him, same memories, same thoughts, same everything.” This is supposed to reassure her that being with him will be exactly like being with the Doctor she knew.
But if he has the same memories as Ten, then he has already learned how to be a better person, and doesn’t need Rose to teach him how. Hmm...
13 Slow Moving Angels
“Blink” introduced us to one of the best monsters Doctor Who has introduced to date in the Weeping Angels. The Angels are aliens that turn to stone when observed, but they can move in an instant as soon as you take your eyes off of them -- even if you merely blink. Even though the episode is very light on the Doctor and his companion Martha, the creepiness of the angels makes this a riveting adventure from start to finish.
The episode does a good job of establishing that even blinking gives the angels an opening. Throughout the story, we see how quickly they can move, which only makes the ending more suspenseful. But when Sally and Larry attempt to unlock the TARDIS, suddenly, the angels are restricted to merely moving inches at a time. This makes for a great climax, but a decent sized plot hole that left us puzzled.
12 Confusion in the Library
“Silence in the Library” is our introduction to River Song, Amy and Rory's daughter and the Doctor’s time-traveling love interest. The Doctor and River meet up at different points throughout their respective timelines, and she actually marries his eleventh incarnation. But the Doctor doesn't know that in this episode, since he’s meeting her for the first time, just like the viewers are.
At first, River doesn’t realize what point in his life she’s observing, and she goes through multiple events to try to figure out what they have and haven’t done. One of the things she asks about is the Crash of the Byzantium, before eventually realizing that the Doctor hasn’t met her yet at all.
Even though she’s confused, she should know that they haven’t covered that yet. The Crash of the Byzantium adventure was with Eleven -- a regeneration of the Doctor who looks and acts completely different.
11 Daleks Without A Kill Instinct
In “Asylum of the Daleks,” the Doctor, Amy and Rory are captured by the Daleks. They’re sent to the ‘Asylum,’ a planet where all the insane Daleks are kept. The Doctor is distracted by Amy and Rory’s threat of divorce, but not too distracted to wonder why the faulty baddies are being kept in an asylum instead of being destroyed. After all, he knows better than anyone about the destructive nature of the Daleks.
When he asks the Dalek Prime Minister why the Daleks are being allowed to live, the Prime Minister replies that they don’t want to kill such pure hatred because they find it beautiful. This apparently disgusts the Doctor enough that he doesn’t realize this explanation...is pretty thin. Daleks hate contamination within themselves, and they've killed each other on many occasions before this episode. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are also called to the planet to enact a suicide mission of destroying the Asylum planet from the inside -- so clearly, the Daleks were willing to kill pure hatred.
10 Faulty Mind Scanning
“Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven” are two of the best-reviewed episodes of Peter Capaldi’s run as the Doctor, and for good reason. They deal with the very human emotions of love, loss, and grief. “Dark Water” allowed us to see not only how much Clara cared for her boyfriend Danny Pink, but also the depth of the Doctor’s feelings towards Clara. Still, even the best story arcs aren’t flawless.
When the Doctor and Clara try to find Danny in the afterlife after he's killed, they end up at a facility called “3W,” a mausoleum-esque building with skeletons floating in 'Dark Water.' Dr. Chang, a scientist at the facility, connects Clara with Danny via an afterlife iPad. When she asks how he knew what to do, he admits that they’ve been scanning her telepathically to find her ‘match’ in the Nethersphere, or afterlife. The Doctor, unconvinced, tells Clara to ask Danny a question only he would know to make sure they’re not faking his voice.
If they’ve been scanning the grieving Clara telepathically the entire time, they would have found information about Danny during their scan. Asking him a question wouldn't prove anything.
9 Reaper-less Paradoxes
In “Father’s Day,” Rose creates a paradox when she goes back in time and prevents her father from being killed in a hit-and-run accident. Shortly after that, flying creatures called reapers appear. When the Doctor and Rose reunite, he explains that the reapers came to sterilize the wound she created by damaging her own timeline. The reapers kill people until Rose’s father fixes the problematic paradox by throwing himself in front of the car that was meant to kill him.
After this episode, there are a lot of paradoxes that happen throughout the series. The plot of “The Angels Take Manhattan” even hinges on creating a paradox for Amy and Rory to escape back to the present day. No matter how big or complicated the paradoxes are, though, we never see the reapers again. Apparently, sterilizing the wound in time left by a paradox isn’t all that important. Maybe they'd eaten their fill already?
8 Out of Lives
Amy and Rory’s friend Mels regenerates into River Song in “Let’s Kill Hitler.” In this episode, we watch River and the Doctor spar mentally and physically, since she was programmed by the Silence to try and kill the Doctor. After River is seemingly thwarted at every turn -- a gun without bullets, a banana swapped for a knife -- she secretly poisons the Doctor with a kiss before running away.
The Doctor stumbles back to the TARDIS to find a cure or regenerate, but the TARDIS informs him that he’ll be dead in 32 minutes, and that regeneration is disabled. The Doctor should have known that regeneration wasn’t just disabled, it was impossible. Even though the War Doctor was kept secret from everyone else, the Doctor himself knew about this incarnation of himself. The Doctor that viewers knew as Eleven was technically Twelve all along, which would mean that he has no regenerations left.
7 Magical Resuscitation
In “The Power of Three,” mysterious black cubes have coated every corner of Earth. People are curious about them at first, but after weeks and months of the cubes doing nothing, they become part of life. Eventually, the cubes start to send people across the globe into cardiac arrest.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory set out to discover who is behind the cubes. The trio learns that a member of the Shakri is trying to wipe out humanity before it spreads across the rest of the galaxy. After a trademark speech in favor of humanity, the Doctor hacks the Shakri’s computer to reverse the shock given to the original victims.
A significant amount of time has passed since the victims went into cardiac arrest -- definitely more than five minutes, probably closer to hours. Yet the victims wake up and continue on with their lives as though nothing has happened. Even if they were essentially defibrillated, they would undoubtedly have some brain damage, and would likely be brain dead.
6 Orson Pink
We’re introduced to the character of Orson Pink in “Listen.” One of the main plotlines of the episode is Clara and Danny’s relationship. It opens with the pair on a date, one which goes up in flames after Danny’s career in the army comes up. Later, the Doctor and Clara go back in time to 1990s Gloucester, where Clara meets a young Danny and accidentally gives him the idea to join the army when he’s older.
After returning to the present, Clara meets Orson Pink, one of humanity’s first time-travelers. Orson’s uncanny resemblance to Danny is explained when he reveals that he’s actually one of Danny’s direct descendants from far in the future.
This is all well and good until the events of “Dark Water” later in the same series, when we learn that Danny was killed. If Danny died before having children, there’s no way that Orson Pink should exist.
5 Copper Weeping Angel
In “The Angels Take Manhattan,” Rory is sent back to 1930s Manhattan by a weeping angel disguised as a cherub. The Doctor and Amy head back in the TARDIS to find him, only to learn that the city has been overrun by weeping angels.
Angels turn into stone when quantum-locked, aka whenever someone is looking at them. In this episode, we learn a new fact. River Song explains that the Weeping Angels can turn even ordinary stone statues into angels. At the very least, they can control them and give them the abilities of actual angels.
This seems like little more than a plot device to turn the Statue of Liberty herself into a weeping angel, who is awaiting Amy and Rory when they try to escape. Aside from the fact that someone certainly would have eyes on the Statue of Liberty at all times, preventing it from moving, it's the wrong material for the angels to inhabit. It is made of copper, not stone, so this should have been impossible.
4 Tricky TARDIS
Fans learned what TARDIS stands for -- Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space -- in the very first episode of Doctor Who ever aired. Susan, the Doctor’s original companion and granddaughter, created the name TARDIS. It's understandable that she named it in English, given that they were in 1963 London. Still, the name should be specific to the Doctor’s machine, and not the machines of other Time Lords. After all, it was his granddaughter who came up with it, right?
However, in “The Name of the Doctor,” when we see the effects of Clara throwing herself into the Doctor’s timestream when we watch her help the first Doctor choose which TARDIS to steal. Two Time Lords hear an alarm go off and check the monitors, which are displaying an alert. One asks, “What kind of idiot would steal a faulty TARDIS?”
A better question might be, what random Time Lord technician would know the acronym TARDIS if that’s a name that the Doctor’s granddaughter created?
3 Convenient Regeneration Energy
When River tries to help Rory during “The Angels Take Manhattan,” both of them are captured by a man named Mr. Grayle. Mr. Grayle has a weak weeping angel with him, and he has it hold River’s wrist as he interrogates her. River is still able to send a message to the Doctor for help.
When he arrives, though, he refuses to free her. He suspects that something bad will happen, and believes that if he leaves River as she is, time can be rewritten. River breaks her own wrist to escape, and the Doctor heals her with regeneration energy.
Time Lords can use this energy to heal for a short period of time after regenerating, as we saw with Ten’s hand in the 2006 Christmas special. But this was so long after Eleven’s regeneration that there’s no way he should have had any energy left. Plus, with the introduction of the War Doctor, that would make the 11th Doctor the last incarnation -- so he definitely shouldn’t have any energy to heal River’s busted wrist.
2 The Impossible Girl’s Impossible Escape
Clara Oswald is the Impossible Girl who keeps popping up throughout the timelines of Eleven and Twelve. That being said, she shouldn’t even have been alive to be Twelve’s companion.
In “The Name of the Doctor,” Clara jumps into the Doctor’s timestream to save his life. In doing so, she’s fractured into a countless number. She turns up at various points throughout the Doctor’s life to save him, which explains her appearances earlier in the season. This is also supposed to be a self-sacrificing action -- in saving the Doctor, she gives up her own life, since she can never come back.
Refusing to accept this, Eleven enters his own timestream. Clara eventually comes to a stop, confused and alone. Eleven finds her and scoops her up, but can’t leave before coming face to face with the incarnation he tried to forget -- the War Doctor.
After the War Doctor is revealed, the episode ends. The next time we see the Doctor and Clara, they’re safe and sound, with no mention of how they somehow escaped the Doctor’s timestream. According to what we learned about how timestreams work in this episode, the entire ending should be impossible.
1 The Angels Take The Ponds
When “The Angels Take Manhattan” first aired, fans knew that they were going to have to say goodbye to companions Amy and Rory -- the only question was how. After creating a paradox to escape the weeping angels in 1930s New York, the Ponds make it back to the present day. However, a surviving angel transports Rory back to the 1930s. Amy is determined to join him, even though a devastated Doctor explains that doing so would create a fixed point in time, and that he would never be able to see her again. She still allows the angel to send her back in time so that she can be with Rory, sealing her fate.
It created a very emotional moment, but it didn’t necessarily make any sense. The Doctor may not be able to go back to 1930s New York because of the paradox, but he does have a time machine. New York is not closed off to him completely. This is proven in “The Return of Doctor Mysterio,” when Twelve heads to 1990s New York. Given that Amy lived to be 87 years old according to her tombstone, it’s not inconceivable that she was alive in 1992, when the beginning of the episode takes place.
The Doctor probably could have seen Amy and Rory again, but this was glossed over to write their exit.
Surely their are more plot holes that the modern incarnations of the Doctor glossed over. Be sure to share your favorites in the comments!
Doctor Who continues Saturday, April 22nd with ‘Smile’ @9pm on BBC1 and BBC America.